How to acquire any skill fast

“There’s so much to do but so little time”, the story of my life.
We all have a list of the things we want to do but we don’t. So, what’s holding us?
Two things: Time and skill.
Here’s one hard fact: The most satisfying events in life almost always call for a level of skill.
Skills take time and effort to master. A time we don’t have, and effort we’re hesitant to contribute.
Here’s another hard fact: Many things aren’t fun until you’re good at them.


If you want to be good at any skill, you have a greater chance of success if you start with twenty hours of skill acquisition.
What is skill acquisition?
It is a process of breaking down tasks into smaller parts. It identifies the most prominent parts and practices those first.
Rapid skill acquisition has 4 main steps:
  • Deconstructing a skill into the smallest subskills
  • Learning enough about each sub-skill, to practice and self-correct during practice.
  • Removing physical, mental, and emotional difficulties that slow practice
  • Practising the most prominent sub-skills for at least twenty hours.
Now that we’re clear about what skill acquisition means, let’s examine how to do it.

1. Choose a lovable project

You need to choose an appealing skill.
The more you’re enthusiastic about the skill the faster you’ll acquire it.
For example, learning to speak German is not on my list because I have no urgent need to learn it at the moment. On the other hand, I have to learn how to use After Effects because it can help me with lots of projects.
You learn things you care about faster than things you don’t.

2-Focus your energy on one skill at a time

One of the most typical mistakes we do is seeking to learn many skills at the same time.
Now, gaining a new skill demands a critical mass of concentrated time and focused attention.
If you hardly have an hour or two to practice, and you spend that time on twenty other things, you will not see improvement.
Make a list of skills you want to learn.
Focusing on one skill at a time is crucial for rapid skill acquisition.
You’re not giving up on other skills, you’re just saving them for later.

3. Define your target performance level

A target performance level is a simple sentence that defines what “good enough looks like”.  How well would you like to perform the skill?
The more specific the better.
Defining your target performance level helps you imagine what it looks like performing in a certain way. Once you figure out exactly how good you want or need to be, it’s easier to figure out how to get there.


In the words of Charles Kettering: “A problem well stated is a problem half solved.”
You can set the objective performance based on the reason you choose to acquire the skill.
If you’re doing it just for fun, then your target is at that point at which you stop feeling frustrated and enjoy practice itself.
If your intent is to perform, what’s your least level of performance you’re willing to accept at first?
4. Deconstruct the skill into subskills
Most of the skills are bundles of smaller sub-skills. Once you identified the skill, the next step is to break it down into smaller pieces.
For example, playing football is a skill made of sub-skills. Some of them are passing, shooting, penalties, free kick, corners, etc.
Now that you choose the subskill you think is the most important. Focus on subskills that promise the best results in the shortest time.
By eliminating noncritical subskills early, you’ll be able to invest more time and energy in the critical subskills. And that’s how you make more progress with less effort.

5. Get critical tools

What tools, components, and environments you need to before you can practice? How can you get the best tools you can find and afford?
Finding the right tools saves time which maximizes the practice time.

6. Cut barriers to practice

There are many things that can impede practice, which makes it more difficult to learn any skill.
Some of them can be:
  • Spending time in preparation. Such as misplacing your tools, or not gaining the correct tools before practising.
  • Environmental distractions such as TV, phone, internet.
  • Emotional blocks such as fear, doubt, and embarrassment.

7. Make dedicated time for practice

We want to acquire new skills but, we do other activities like watching TV, playing games, etc.
“I’ll do it when I find the time,” we say to ourselves.
The truth is that “finding” time is a myth.
No one ever finds time about anything. If we rely on finding time to do something, it will never be done. If you want more time, you must make time.
You have 24 hours to invest each day, no more no less.
If you sleep for about 8 hours a day, you have 16 hours at your disposal.
If you want to improve your skills as quickly as possible, the more time you dedicate the better.
The best approach to make time is by identifying low-valued uses of time and cut them.

8. Practice by the clock in short bursts

Our minds are built to learn and to figure out what will happen next. They are not build to estimate how long you’ll spend doing something.
When you’re in the early phases practising the skill, it may seem like the time never passes.
You may feel like you spend more time than you actually do.
The solution for this is the Pomodoro technique.
Set the timer for 25 minutes, practice until it goes off, and take a short break. Repeat this process as much as you can.

9. Emphasize quantity and speed

When acquiring a new skill, it’s tempting to be perfect. But, this is a recipe for frustration. Your performance won’t be anywhere close to perfection.


Instead of trying to be perfect, focus on practising and maintaining a “good enough form”.


Skill results from consistent practice. At first is more important practice faster and more often.

Source: The First Twenty Hours by Josh Kaufman

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